Chargé d’Affaires Michael Goldman – Australia

Each of the Ambassadors and Embassy officials who have shared their time, their information, and their insights with us have given us a far greater understanding of U.S. relations with other countries than we might be able to get from general news sources. Sometimes the relationships are strong, and sometimes, as in the case of Belarus, they are very difficult if they exist at all. Chargé d’Affaires Goldman was able to share a picture of extremely strong collaborations that go back a long way between the United States and Australia. Along with Mr. Goldman, we heard from Public Affairs Officer, Jeffrey Anderson, additional connections between the two countries.

According to Michael Goldman, Australia is one of the strongest U.S. allies in times of war that go back many years, with troops from both countries fighting side-by-side in every war since before WWI.  Not only are the two countries strong military partners, but they are also strong partners in all areas of law enforcement sharing intelligence and teams fighting human trafficking—especially noting trafficking of children, and drug trafficking in the region. He mentioned that teamwork “busted a large, organized crime network by cloning a communications system.”

COVID, as a worldwide pandemic, is always a major theme in our chats, and Mr. Goldberg was happy to talk about Australia’s early success in recognizing the threat, investigating, and imposing rigorous quarantine systems that included closing borders immediately. These measures, coupled with the very cooperative populations, “essentially stamped it out” for the first 18 months with only small outbreaks and localized lockdowns. The Delta variant changed everything as these measures are not as effective in eradicating that disease.  Vaccination rates are extremely high in Australia—some areas are 95% vaccinated, and New South Wales (Sydney) is in the high 80’s.  He is confident that they will reach 100% vaccination shortly. Nationwide, there has been a total of 1500 deaths in a population of 28 million.  They are talking about re-opening the borders in early 2022.

He emphasized that Australia is a democracy and that agreed to policies are accepted by the people. Unlike the U.S., Australians accepted all the government mandates around COVID.  However, some in the U.S. have given Australia the label of Police State, which Australians do resent. “They sacrificed, but managed COVID admirably. He also mentioned that Australia was the first to investigate the origins of COVID in China, resulting in China’s implantation of drastic trade restrictions.

He reiterated that the United State is Australia’s strongest investment partner, but Chinese students and commerce are “plentiful.” China relies on investments in housing and infrastructure that require steel. Australia is a leader in iron resources which means that trade volume with China surged during COVID even with the imposed trade restrictions.  China’s government in the recent past has become much more aggressive and a destabilizing force in Asia, but Australia has stood up to those challenges.

Questions about climate change came up during the talk. Australia continues to be the biggest exporter of coal in the world, going against recommended COP (United Nations Climate Change Conference) policies. Mr. Goldman replied that Australia and the United States are “good enough friends to disagree on some issues.” The U.S. will move forward with its Eco policies.

Of concern to nearly everyone watching was the devastating bush fires two years ago. He said that “bush fires are not new to the area so there is a natural resilience.” Animals are coming back and so are the natural regions. He said that Australia takes care of its human population and really takes care of its animal population. At times help for animals can come faster than for humans…

That note and the vision of two countries that work so well together even through differences of opinion provided a brighter picture of global friendship and cooperation than we tend to see every day on the news.

Thank you to Chargé d’Affaires Goldman and to Public Affairs Officer Anderson for an engaging talk and for a strong sense of cooperation in a world of challenges.

Submitted by Patricia Houston, VP of Citizen Diplomacy Alliance